“Girls like me” Lola StVil

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Published October 4, 2016. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 310 p.

girlslikemeUsing a poetic style of writing, along with text messages, St. Vil tells the story of Shay, a lonely, overweight 15-year-old girl. Shay has learned to constantly eat to cope with the pain of bullying and missing her dead father, as it helps her forget she’s fat and alone with her evil stepmother. Her gay best friend Dash, and her dying-of-cancer friend Boots assure her she is beautiful and funny, but even they can’t give her the help and support she finds from eating.

A chance encounter with a boy in a chat room leads to days spent laughing and chatting online. Soon her humor and his wit combine to form love, but is it possible to fall for someone you’ve never met? Shay believes staying online is enough, and resists all attempts for them to meet in person. She is certain that once he meets her he will run away, so is willing to settle for second best. Can she learn to overcome her fear and stand up for herself?

“Girls like me” tells Shay’s, Dash’s and Boot’s stories of loneliness, friendship and heartache, along with the ups and downs that come with being seen as “different” by their peers. It is a story every teen should, hopefully, learn from as they read.

Highly recommended for ages 13 and older.

“Girl mans up” M-E Girard

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Published September 6, 2016. Harper Collins. 373 p.

girl-mans-up“Girl mans up” is a coming of age story with a twist. Pen, a young teen, has always identified as a boy. Ever since she was a little girl, she dressed as a boy, played with boys, and really thought she was a boy. Her old-fashioned immigrant Portuguese parents assumed she’d outgrow her tomboyish ways, but their disappointment and anger grew as they demanded she show them proper “respeito” (respect.)

Unable to accept the girly mold they want her to fill, and lacking courage to completely forge a manly mold of her own, Pen takes readers on a journey of self-discovery to find a girlfriend and finally “man up” to become the person she was meant to be. Her story helps readers understand the struggles felt by young trans teens beginning to truly self identify. It also shows the importance of having friends and family with whom these teens can feel safe as they navigate through uncharted territory in their quest to have “respeito” for themselves.

Recommended for ages 16 and older.

“The other boy” M.G. Hennessey

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Published September 20, 2016. Harper. 234 p.

theotherboyShane and his best friend Josh are in sixth grade. Video games and baseball consume their every waking moment, and girls are making an appearance. Even though his dad hasn’t made too many attempts to be part of his life or to come for visits after his parents divorce, Shane is doing just fine without him. When he and his mom left San Francisco for Los Angeles three years ago, Shane never looked back. With his days filled with baseball, his friendship with Josh, and designing his very own graphic novel, he is finally getting to become the person he always knew he should be.

Despite his rosy outside life, Shane is hiding a secret that would change everything about his life if anyone ever found out about it. With his secret getting closer to exposure every day Shane will soon learn that truth comes with a price, and will have to decide if he is willing to pay it.

Once I started reading “The other boy” I couldn’t put it down, and finished it in one sitting. Hennessey’s young readers have the opportunity to learn about the many difficulties and challenges, as well as the hopes and fears, faced by transgender boys and girls. Through reading Shane’s story in this finely crafted novel, it is hoped they will learn acceptance and tolerance. Every middle school and public library should have a copy of “The other boy” in its collection.

Highly recommended for ages 11-14.

 

“Three truths and a lie” Brent Hartinger

Rated 3 stars *** ARC. Published August 2, 2016. Simon Pulse.

ThreeTruthsAndALieRob, his boyfriend Liam, their friend Mia and her boyfriend Galen decide to spend a fun weekend at Mia’s parent’s cabin. Located in the middle of a partly denuded rainforest in Washington State, the four friends expect to have a great time at the cabin’s lake telling truth and lie games and hanging out.

Within just a few short hours of arriving, the satellite phone they need to communicate in case of an emergency winds up missing. It doesn’t take long before a series of other unfortunate events turns the fun they’d anticipated having into terror, as it seems like someone doesn’t want them to leave. As the horror escalates, their reality becomes someone’s lie leaving it up to the reader to distinguish between the two.

I thought “Three truths and a lie” was interesting though some of the events seemed rather far fetched. It reminded me of what always happens to those who don’t pay attention in creepy 1960’s “B” slasher movies, and I will admit that the ending left me very surprised.

It’s because of Hartinger’s ability to deceive that I recommend his book for ages 16 and older.

“Last seen leaving” Caleb Roehrig

Rated 3 stars *** ARC. Ebook. Feiwel and Friends. To be published October 4, 2016.

LastSeenLeavingFlynn is devastated to find out his girlfriend, January, had been reported missing. Prying questions from the police triggered a secret he had been hiding from everyone, and his vague answers only served to convince them of his guilt. Determined to prove his innocence he starts to dig deeper into January’s disappearance but, as he reflects on their relationship, floodgates open to his own secret that will forever change his life.

Through flashbacks and the present time, readers are drawn into Flynn and January’s lives as the author did a good job implicating various characters in the crime. I thought I knew who was guilty, but was fooled many different times.

Despite good clues in the whodunit portion, I found inconsistencies that were problematic. Would a 19-year-old be able to date a 15-year-old without anyone blinking an eye? Would the two of them be able to wander in and around a rich, private school without any kind of security system? It was these and other inconsistencies that made the story much less believable, and caused me to drop its rating down to 3 stars.

Despite my questions I will recommend “Last seen leaving” for ages 14 and older because Roehrig did a good job stringing along the reader in making several characters appear to be the “bad guy.”

I received an electronic copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

“What remains” Helene Dunbar

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Ebook. Flux. Published May 8, 2015.

WhatRemainsCal, Spencer and Lizzie have been best friends since first grade; knowing each other’s moods, thoughts, likes and dislikes. Spencer and Cal have been protecting Lizzie from her abusive home life since she was a little girl, which has made them inseparable. Love binds them together.

Now juniors, the three of them are starting to get excited about their upcoming senior year. Cal is planning on being the best shortstop the Major Leagues has ever seen, and can’t wait for baseball season to begin, while Spencer is always onstage performing in something with the Drama Department. Lizzie doesn’t think she’s good at anything, but is a wonderful artist.

Life as they knew it ends the day a texting driver crashes into their car, killing Lizzie, almost killing Cal, and injuring Spencer. Cal’s heart was literally broken in the crash, and his baseball dreams died with Lizzie. Certain that he was at fault for the accident, Cal falls into an abyss of guilt, loneliness and despair. As he begins to lose himself, only love can save him.

“What remains” is a heartfelt look at a special kind of love that touches the soul. Dunbar does a wonderful job drawing readers into Cal’s anguish and salvation. The author has also written “These Gentle Wounds,” also from Flux publishers, and I look forward to reading more of her work.

Highly recommended for ages 16 and older.

“Alice & Freda forever: A murder in Memphis” Alexis Coe

Rated 4 stars **** Pulp (Zest Books). 2014. 223 pp. Includes “Appendix,” “Bibliography,” “Notes,” and an “Index.”

Alice&FredaForeverI was asked to participate in the “True Stories Fall Blog Tour,” put on by Zest Books, where you can see lots of other information on this great book.

In 1892 nineteen-year-old Alice Mitchell, fine upstanding citizen of Memphis, Tennessee, committed an unfathomable crime against her seventeen-year-old ex-fiancée. In a fit of passion, she brutally slashed Freda Ward’s throat on a public street in front of witnesses.

Before the murder Alice had planned to impersonate a man so she and Freda could marry, move away, and live together as a couple. When their plan was discovered their families forbade them from any interaction, but Alice was obsessed. Freda seemed uninterested in restoring their relationship, appearing to be in love with several men, causing Alice to become extremely jealous and determined that no one could have Freda if she couldn’t be the one to marry her.

What made this crime so sensational was that lesbianism was not socially acceptable in 1892, and the social mores of the time dictated Alice would have had to be insane to entertain such impure thoughts towards another woman.

Using an impressive array of primary and secondary sources, Coe uses Alice and Freda’s love letters, newspaper accounts of the day, and other sources to walk readers through their disastrous love story. The events leading up to Freda’s murder, and Alice’s insanity trial are also thoroughly investigated.

Coe’s historical research allows readers to “see” the Memphis of 1892 including its civil rights violations, crooked politics, amazingly inaccurate medical theories and the ways in which Alice’s case was decided by the media rather than the courts. The turmoil faced by Alice and Freda for their love over 100 years ago will long resound with her readers.

Recommended for ages 18 and older.